Would you fly with a pilot who did not use a checklist? Aviation history tells us that the pilot checklist concept was inspired by a tragic accident on Oct. 30, 1935, when a prototype for the Boeing B-17 crashed during takeoff at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. At first everyone thought that the plane had crashed because it was just too much plane for any single pilot to fly, but upon further investigation the cause of the crash was identified as “pilot error” -- the pilot had neglected one important step before take off.

He had forgotten to release the elevator lock. The accident happened not because the tasks were too hard for one man to do; it was rather because the number of tasks was too great for the average person to be expected to remember. After the mishap, a group of pilots got together and worked on a way to prevent future "pilot errors." They came up with checklists. With the help of checklists, pilots flew B-17s over 1.8 million miles without a serious “pilot error” mishap.

That is all well and good, but what does this have to do with running a dairy? Since that first recorded checklist, the checklist idea has been used by many professional and private fields of endeavor.

You might be thinking, “My employees don’t need a checklist to remind them what to do.” That might be true, but you could be wrong. You might want to go into the milking barn and just see how well the following Milking Procedure Checklist is being followed. Your milkers might be skipping one or more important steps.

Milking Procedures Checklist:

  1. Cows are provided a clean stress free environment.
  2. Milkers wear latex/rubber gloves while milking.
  3. All teats are clean, dry, and sanitized before the milking unit is applied.
  4. Only one cow is dried per towel.
  5. Foremilk is checked for abnormalities.
  6. Animals known to be secreting abnormal milk are milked last or with separate equipment, and the milk is discarded.
  7. Milking units are attached within two minutes after the start of stimulation.
  8. Liner slippage is minimized.
  9. Vacuum is shut off before milking units are removed.
  10. Immediately after unit removal, every teat is disinfected with an effective product.

First Aid Checklist:

  1. Emergency phone numbers are posted in prominent places (by telephones and in main work areas).
  2. A first aid kit is readily available, and all workers know where it is located.
  3. Someone on the dairy should be trained in First Aid and CPR.

I would suggest that you use the Milking Procedure and First Aid Checklists as examples to develop similar checklists for other important functions on your dairy: feed mixing and distribution, newborn calf procedures, dry cow treatment, dairy safety, etc.

Your dairy operation will run more smoothly if you use these checklists when training employees and when the procedures are reviewed on a regular basis.